Faster action on Indians' study visas
By Lincoln Tan
The New Zealand Herald
4:00AM Monday Sep 07, 2009
A priority visa-processing system to speed student applications from India is to be introduced by Immigration New Zealand after criticism that slow processing is putting the $200 million market at risk.
The Indian Education Group, which represents private training establishments working primarily with the Indian market, said students and agents from the subcontinent were put off by the five-month wait for a New Zealand visa and were heading instead for countries like Britain where the turnaround time for a student visa was seven days.
“Agents in India are saying we have students wanting to come through, but they are just put off by the five-month wait and are sending them away to England,” spokesman Paul Chalmers said.
New Zealand had failed to seize the opportunity to lure those who were turning their backs on Australia because of reports of racial violence and exploitation there, he said.
The international student sector is Australia's third-largest export earner, worth A$13 billion ($16.5 billion). Indian students number 95,000 and make up 18 per cent of all foreign students.
Mr Chalmers said Australia processed 20,000 Indian student visas last year with an average processing time of between two and six weeks.
Export education is a $2.3 billion industry in New Zealand, but only 6000 of the 85,000 foreign students here are from India.
“It's a market that is growing steadily, but has the potential of growing a whole lot faster,” Mr Chalmers said.
He said that although the eight member institutions, which include Auckland Institute of Studies, Natcoll and Newton College of Business and Technology, had received about 1000 new Indian applications since the Australian attacks, many of the applicants were still waiting for their visa requests to be processed.
Representatives from the group met Immigration New Zealand officials last month seeking urgent intervention and warned of job losses at a number of schools and institutions if these students and others from India were kept from coming here.
In a memo to member establishments, the group said resolutions discussed with Immigration NZ's acting service delivery group manager, Mike Christie, included priority processing for at-risk institutions, shifting the processing to another centre to ease traffic in New Delhi and, in the longer term, developing extra processing capacity in India.
An Immigration New Zealand spokesman said the service was working closely with the group to speed student visa applications in India and the group had enthusiastically welcomed the suggestions.